Park Guell Architecture & Design | Gaudi's Modernisme Marvel
Spread across 17 hectares, Park Guell is a municipal garden featuring architectural elements. Situated on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, Park Guell is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed skillfully in a way that the various architectural structures, flamboyant and eye-grabbing, manage to remain inconspicuous against the landscape of the park. Curved lines, elements inspired by nature, and motifs of Catalan nationalism all work together to make Park Guell an architectural marvel.
Who Designed Park Guell?
Gaudi's Architectural Style
Gaudi has a distinctive and novel architectural style that has earned him praise and encomiums over the centuries. His work was inspired by Neo-Gothic styles, Art Nouveau, and Modernisme, also known as Catalan Modernism.
His works can be characterized by their vivid colors and textures. It was while working on Park Guell that he developed the style of Trencadis. Trencadis is the art form where beautiful mosaic structures are created after putting together broken vivid tiles. You will also find influences of nature and religion in his works. Many of the structures he designed assume shapes and patterns you would see in the natural world. You will also see creations like the El Drac and the Serpent that speak to his affinity for nature.
Origins of Modernisme | Barcelona of 1900s
By the second half of the 19th century, the walls of Barcelona had been demolished and the district of Eixample had grown dramatically. The center of the district came to be seen as the hub of urbanization and bourgeoise.
In the 1900s Barcelona had a burgeoning upper class, while the rest of Spain was struggling with a serious economic crisis caused by the loss of the colonies Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. These conditions created the right environment for the growth of Catalan nationalism, which centered around the revival of Catalan traditions and national culture.
The upper class followed suit and began favoring Catalan artists and architects. The concept of patronage was also reinforced. It was at this time that Eusebi Guell, an aristocrat, discovered Antoni Gaudi.
Development of Catalan Modernisme
In the context of the political and economic background, there was a growing urge to return to and revindicate Catalan roots. It was this push that allowed for the development of Modernism, in contrast to the way in which Art Nouveau developed in other parts of Europe during the 20th century, as an expression of the Zeitgeist at the time.
Modernisme in Catalan, hence, had a unique nature, as opposed to the rest of Europe. The cultural resurgence and desire for modernization also allowed this movement to go beyond architecture and shape visual arts, language, literature, and even music. While the ways in which this idea played out differed, the works were designed to reflect the cosmopolitan culture in Barcelona.
In 1878, Lluís Domenèch i Montaner, who was a politician, physician, artist, writer, and architect, published an article "In search of a national architecture" in which he laid down his theories of an independent Catalan architecture. He put these theories into practice and designed a cafe for the World Exhibition in 1888. The cafe was the first Modernisme building in Barcelona, and hence, is considered to be the moment that marks the beginning of the Modernisme.
Soon enough, buildings in the new modernist style came to be seen as not only a sign of prestige but also of the Catalan patriotism of the patron. With Barcelona expanding, and a higher population of aristocrats, the city's skyline was like an empty canvas ready to be transformed.
As with any change, Modernism met with resistance. In 1906, journalist and art critic Eugeni d'Ors started arguing against the Modernisme and made the case for Noucentisme (roughly translated “movement of the new (20th) century”). By 1910, Modernisme began declining, after it began gaining the reputation of being an opulent style. The straight lines and functional forms of Noucentisme began being preferred over the extravagant modernist façades. Some artistes of the Modernisme, such as the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, adjusted to the scene, while others disappeared. Gaudi continued his work through the Sagrada Familia from 1912 until his death.
Elements of Modernisme in Park Guell
Imitation of Nature
The seamless blending of architectural elements and nature in Park Guell was not a chance occurrence, but a well-thought-out plan. The buildings, roads, and pathways of Park Guell were integrated into the topography of the mountain. He took advantage of the curves and slopes and created systems that would work together such as the rainwater harvesting system, or the viaducts and pathways. Gaudí even introduced plants and Mediterranean vegetation such as pine, carob trees, olive, and other flora that adapted well to the environment.
Fusing nature and architectural design was an integral part of Gaudi’s work. As someone heavily influenced by nature, Gaudi did not simply replicate what he saw in nature but also created works that would imitate it. For example, you will not find any straight lines throughout Park Guell because Gaudi did not believe that straight lines occurred in nature. He instead opted for curves and undulating lines. The roads and viaducts; the columns that support the roads are shaped like trunks and pine trees while the shape of the viaduct resembles a wave. Another great example would be the red mushroom-shaped ventilation shaft that sprouts from the two pavilions at the entrance.
The use of bright colors is evident throughout the park. Colorful tiling and whimsical mosaics have come together to create a mystical magical wonderland, here. The Trencadis technique is not only used in creating El Drac but even railing of the Serpentine bench and the ceiling of the Hypostyle Room. The colorful mosaic is a sensory treat, especially during the sunlight hours as you can watch the play of light and colors.
Religious Motifs at Park Guell
Antoni Gaudi was a devout Christian and the influence on religion can be found across his works. You will find many crosses with four arms, a style distinct to Gaudi, throughout the park. Each of the four arms of the cross to one of the cardinal points, and a fifth one points to the sky.
The most important of the crosses in Park Guell is located on the Calvary Hill, or the El turó de les Tres Creus (The Hill of Three Crosses). Two of the crosses point to the four cardinal points, while the third one is shaped like an arrow pointed to the sky.
All Your Park Guell & Antoni Gaudi Questions Answered
Park Guell was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a Catalan architect, who is known for his Art Nouveau and Modernisme designs.
A. Antoni Gaudi was a well-known architect and the face of Catalan modernism.
A. Park Guell is designed in the style of Modernisme, characterized by the organic form of architecture, curved lines, and vivid colors.
A. Park Guell was inspired by the English garden city movement.
A. Inside Park Guell you will find sprawling flora as well as architectural elements that seamlessly blend together. Some of the main highlights of the park include the Dragon Stairway, Hypostyle Room, The Greek Square, The Lodger’s Pavillion, The Viaducts, Roads and Pathways and The Laundry Portico.
A. Park Guell is located on Carmel Hill, at 08024 Barcelona, Spain.
A. Park Guell was built between 1900 and 1914.
A. Yes, Park Guell has reopened its doors following the closure due to Covid-19 and has been organizing tours since.
A. Yes, Park Guell tickets are available online. You can buy them here.